Friday, 25 March 2016
One of the advantages of globalisation and multiculturalism and diversity and all of that malarkey is oft quoted to be the cornucopia of comestibles available on any high street at any time of the day or night. That may be so, but perils await the unwary because hidden among the exotic dishes are linguistic traps to snare the bravest gourmand and turn the gastronomically timid into nervous wrecks.
But, every now and then you have to gird your loins, hitch up your trews and venture out into that good night to do battle with the forces of world food. I perused the menus on view in a row of vaguely similar grill outlets, interspersed with betting shops, pound stores and second-hand white goods emporia. They were all much of a muchness, I felt – fried chicken, kebabs, chips, pizzas and the like, but I eventually found one which looked newer and brighter and somehow more optimistic than the rest.
But my first encounter turned out to be alarming as the heavily moustachioed man behind the counter glared at me in what I imagine counts as a greeting in Mediterranean parts and growled. “You wan’ piss or shi’?” he said. I was taken aback and blinked as my mind tried to process the request. He looked at my red face, sighed, then spread his arms to show the display and asked again “You wan’ pissa, or shi’ kebab?” In my relief I ordered the shish kebab, which I later regretted as it took its revenge on my very British bowels. Not going there again, I mentally noted.
The next time I was tempted by the exotic, I decided that Chinese would be safer all round and found myself staring at the fish tank in the Lucky House as I waited for my takeaway order, a safe chicken chow mein. I was somewhat startled, however, to be asked by the diminutive chap at the order desk, “You want cheap, sore arse?” I most certainly did not and was about to voice my resistance to such crude language when I saw he was pointing at the menu board. “It comes with chips, or rice,” he said “which one you want?” I paid and left, mentally ticking off another on my list of establishments it might be unwise to revisit.
It was some time before I decided to try again. Fish and chips, I thought, should prove less problematic. This was until I discovered that the traditional jolly English fish fryer has largely been replaced by a more swarthy fellow with a better eye for business and a fearsome way with the language. I ordered my fish supper and was immediately presented with what I took to be a threat. “You want a fucking knife?” I thought he said. He held up a knife and fork and asked the question again. “Fork an’ knife?” he demanded. I left.
The fast food industry, it appeared was no friend of mine. I decided eventually to stick to something more traditional, British and familiar. So, the following Friday night I headed down to the Taj Mahal for a good old sit-down Ruby Murray. Chicken Madras, pilau rice and a couple of poppadoms. I ordered my little feast and sat down to wait. A few minutes later the manager came to my table. “I am sorry sir,” he said “but we cannot serve you today.” I was surprised and asked the reason. He told me that after my various encounters and non-too amiable exchanges with the local eateries I was on some sort of blacklist.
Should I just 'poppa dem down on de table' Sergeant Major, sir?
It took some moments for me to process this news. It was outrageous. Me? Barred? Because of what? I wasn’t taking this lying down; I sat instead, firmly in my place and demanded my food. “I am sorry sir,” the manager said again “but the local Chamber of Trade has been involved. Everybody knows and we have decided you are barred.” This affront to my reputation was just too much and I’m afraid I was a little intemperate in my response. “You, sir, are scurrilous!” I stated. The manager looked at me and tutted. He wagged his finger and said “No sir, I think you will find it is you, who is curry-less.”